Thursday, July 26, 2007

Janet Perez Eckles

Many years ago, I met a true heroine in our profession. From the moment I first heard her interpreting abilities, I knew she was outstanding in many ways. She was able to render information back and forth in her language pair (English<>Spanish) with utmost grace, retaining accuracy and making the speech sound absolutely natural, even conveying nonverbal information, such as hesitations, tone of voice and inflection. Not only that, but she always had an amazing presence about her, treating speakers of both languages gently, with respect and professional courtesy.

I worked with her for a long time, and always admired her as a professional. She quickly rose to achieve many things in her career as an interpreter, receiving awards for her abilities and obtaining her court certification in the state of Florida. Throughout her career, she has trained and coached hundreds of other interpreters in the United States, Panama, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

What I didn't know about Janet Perez-Eckles when I first began working with her, and what may surprise many readers here, was that she was blind. When someone told me this, I became even more awestruck by Janet. We worked together for many years, interacting mostly via telephone. It became easy for me to forget that she was sightless, even when we were together in person. This became even more incredible to me when I learned that Janet had actually lost her sight as an adult. You can read more about Janet's incredible abilities as an interpreter in a feature article from Hispanic Times magazine, located here.

But Janet's achievements as an interpreter are not her only admirable qualities by any stretch of the imagination. In addition to losing her sight as a mother of three young children, Janet has overcome a great many obstacles in her life that many of us can never even imagine.

Janet is already a published author, and imparts wisdom to others about the many hardships she has successfully battled in her book, Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life, available for purchase online here.

Janet's writing - and her amazing life- have received wonderful acclaim in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Orlando Sentinel, and many others. Her work has appeared in countless books and publications, and one of her personal anecdotes will be featured in Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover's Soul, forthcoming in November 2007. Her blog is available here.

So, given this extremely impressive background, and even though I already knew her as a friend, I was extremely honored when I received a call from Janet yesterday. With Janet's trademark "smile in her voice", she shared her support of our project and offered to participate. Janet also informed me that, in her book, she has an entire chapter that discusses how she became an interpreter.

Those of you who have worked as telephone interpreters know the importance of note-taking. Now, imagine for a second that you could not take notes and had to rely exclusively on your short-term memory, even for the longest segments. Imagine interpreting a 16-digit credit card number without writing it down. Janet can do this effortlessly now, but in her book, she describes how she came to acquire and hone this unique ability.

Janet has kindly offered to allow our project to use excerpts from her book, especially from this chapter, which is very relevant. She and I are both thrilled about the chance of working together again, this time with another common interest - that of communicating with a wider audience, in writing, and sharing information about the interpreting profession with others.

Readers may also be interested to know that Janet is working on a series of novels at the moment, and one of her main characters happens to be an interpreter! As more updates become available about Janet's work, I will be sure to share them here.

Until then, I just want to say that I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other published authors whose writing and work focus on interpreting, but are accessible to a broad audience. One thing I am finding in common with all of these authors is that we are unanimous in our belief that it is extremely important to give interpreters from all fields a chance to share their perspectives. There is so much great work being done, and there are so many great stories to share.


Anonymous said...

Wow this lady is mazing and makes me feel like I do not have the right ot complain about my own problems. As a woman, mother and as an interpreter I feel in awe of

Damaris said...

I found this to be so inspiring! Also, the work you are doing in general on this project is inspiring.